Eric Liddell

I am reminded of how much our world needs Christ through the life of Olympic hero Eric Liddell.

Eric Henry Liddell was born January 16, 1902 in Tientsin, China, the son of Reverend and Mrs. James Dunlop Liddell, Scottish missionaries with the London Missionary Society. At the age of six, he and his eight-year-old brother Robert were enrolled in Eltham College, a boarding school in south London for the sons of missionaries. Reverend and Mrs. Liddell and their sister Jenny returned to China. Through the boy’s childhood, Eric and Robert were only able to be together with their family during a handful of missionary furloughs. 

At Eltham, Liddell was an outstanding athlete, earning the Blackheath Cup as the best athlete of his year. He then went on to study at the University of Edinburgh where he became well known for being the fastest runner in Scotland. In 1924, Liddell was chosen to compete in the Summer Olympics in Paris. While training, Liddell learned that the final for the 100-metre race, his best event, was scheduled on Sunday. As a matter of conviction, he refused to run in the race because it was on the Sabbath. Since the Olympic Committee would not consider changing the day of the 100-metre race he was forced to withdraw. Instead, Liddell chose to run in the 400-metre race. On July 11, 1924, he sprinted to the finish, breaking the Olympic and world records with a time of 47.6 seconds. Liddell ran the race with a piece of paper in hand with the message: “In the old book it says: ‘He that honours me I will honour’ (1 Samuel 2:30). Wishing you the best of success always.” Eric ran with one desire, to give all glory to God.

After the Olympics, Liddell returned to Edinburgh an Olympic hero. A year later, in 1925, his friends accompanied him to Waverly Station where multitudes gathered to see him off to serve as a missionary in China. Before leaving he spoke to the crowds saying, “Let our motto be ‘Christ for the World, for the World Needs Christ,’” and then led the crowd in two verses of the hymn “Jesus Shall Reign.”

What a great reminder of how much the world needs Christ and that Jesus reigns sovereign over all the earth. Let us pray for the world to recognize their need for Christ as we continue to walk through uncertain times.

May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed! (Psalm 72:17 ESV)

Bill Gemaehlich is the EVP/COO operations at Insight for Living Ministries